From its inception, residents of Promised Land exerted a significant influence over the political, economic, and social life of rural Abbeville and Greenwood Counties.
(Greenwood and Abbeville Counties; 2000 pop. 559). Located just off S.C. Highway 10 south of Greenwood, this rural African American community was created by freed slaves in the early 1870s. Before Promised Land, the 2,742-acre tract of land belonged to the estate of Samuel Marshall, a white plantation owner. Marshall’s heirs sold the land to the South Carolina Land Commission in 1869 at a rate of $10 per acre. The commission divided the property into fifty lots of approximately fifty acres each and then sold them to freed African Americans. Eleven families purchased lots in Promised Land in 1870; by 1872 some forty-eight families resided in the community. The name derived from their “promise” to pay the commission for the land. The sale of the Marshall property gave blacks in the upstate a rare opportunity to acquire land, which to most symbolized the essence of freedom in the post–Civil War years. Descendents of these original purchasers occupied the land continually throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.
From its inception, residents of Promised Land exerted a significant influence over the political, economic, and social life of rural Abbeville and Greenwood Counties. During Reconstruction many of the men served as Republican Party officials. Seven Promised Land residents were delegates to a county Republican convention in 1872. Two men served on Abbeville County’s first integrated jury. Many of Promised Land’s residents shared family or kin ties, and few households were untouched by an overlapping network of in-laws and cousins. Churches provided the foundation for the community’s leadership. Leadership within the churches was carefully controlled from each generation within the same kin groups.
World War I, the boll weevil, and the Depression stimulated migration from Promised Land. Begun as a push by landless youths, migration was an outgrowth of community dynamics, peonage agriculture, and the maturation of blacks. The trend began to reverse itself by the end of the twentieth century, as new residents moved to the community. Many residents remained, however, tied to the land and community that had provided independence for hundreds of African Americans in the upstate for more than a century.
Bethel, Elizabeth Rauh. Promiseland: A Century of Life in a Negro Community. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981.
Bleser, Carol K. The Promised Land: The History of the South Carolina Land Commission, 1869–1890. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969.
Wideman, John Edgar. Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers and Sons, Race and Society. New York: Pantheon, 1994.